Field Notes: The most amazing thing I ever saw in medicine.
Face/Off in real life. The leading edge of transplant medicine has turned science fiction into reality.
As an emergency physician, I’m often asked, “What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever seen?”
I have a repository of possible answers, but the truth is that some stories never get repeated. They’re just too unsettling. Instead, I tend to pick a story (with details changed for privacy) that seems to align with something the person I’m talking to wants to hear.
There’s another question that I’m not asked nearly often enough though, and that is, “What’s the most amazing thing you’ve ever seen?”
To that question, there are only a couple possible answers that spring to mind.
Here’s one. A few years ago, an ear nose and throat resident was in the ER using one of our computers to put in orders for an upcoming case. An ENT resident using an ER computer to place “pre-op” orders was a bit unusual so I asked him what was up.
“We’re doing a face transplant tonight,” he said, not even attempting to hide his childlike excitement.
This was extremely rare. I was quite interested. The notion of being able to observe my colleagues help a patient overcome tragedy in such a new way seemed important and inspiring. I knew that modern medicine had not reached the science fiction heights of the film Face/Off, but I was curious how far the techniques had come in the few years since the first face transplants were attempted earlier this century. Immediately, I started to pursue an agenda.
I wanted in, and I would not be disappointed. There was much to learn and to be inspired by.